Greg Lindquist, the owner of Best of Brews growler shop in Duluth, succinctly summed it up: “It’s exciting time to be a beer merchant and a beer consumer.”
Lindquist opened the first growler shop outside the perimeter in Sept. 2011. He held his first beer tasting, made legal by a new Duluth ordinance, a few weeks ago. He said his business has been growing steadily, but he hopes offering tastings will “bump things up” even more.
Though long popular in other states, growlers — containers filled and refilled with draft beer to go — first appeared in Georgia in early 2011, when partners Paul Saunders, Denny Young and Sean Galvin opened the Beer Growler in Athens. They’ve since opened stores in Avondale, Alpharetta and Suwanee, and a Brookhaven store is coming soon.
But since 2011, the number of places filling growlers has grown to include the likes of Whole Foods Markets, small beer and wine shops, and even some gas stations. Recently, Greene’s Fine Foods, a nut and candy shop in Decatur, added Greene’s Growler with 16 taps. North River Tavern in Sandy Springs appears to be the first bar with growlers to go.
Certainly, the trend is in synch with the popularity of craft beer everywhere. But the growler explosion in Georgia has taken some surprising twists and turns, lately. Several cities, including Duluth and Sandy Springs, have enacted ordinances that seem designed to ease the growler business.
“The municipalities are very, very interested in us as small businesses,” said Lindquist. “They ask what they can do to help. I went to the city of Duluth and said, ‘We need to do beer tastings.’ ”
Eddie Holley started selling growlers in May 2011 at Ale Yeah!, his beer, wine and homebrew supply store in Decatur. Earlier this summer, Holley opened a second Ale Yeah! in Roswell.
“We’re still finding our audience up here,” Holley said. “But almost two months in, it’s going really, really well. Like in Decatur, we are going to be a neighborhood store.”
Ale Yeah! in Roswell has a growler station with 17 beer taps and a soda tap. The store also sells bottled beer, wine, sake, a bit of cheese, and other food stuffs. But Holley said growlers are the biggest seller, by far.
“I think last at this time there were eight places pouring growlers around Atlanta,” Holley said. “I think number right now is around 46. Some people have speculated that they see that number going as high as 70 or 80 before there’s a drop-off.”
Holley isn’t offering growler tastings, so far. In fact, he’s not really sure if it’s legal to do so in Roswell. Like many in the growler business, he’s puzzled by the crazy quilt of local ordinances and state laws.
“I’ve said this several times in the last couple weeks,” Holley said. “This business is like the wild, wild west right now. I’m not going to risk getting slapped with a fine or getting my license pulled , just because everybody thinks you can do tastings off the taps, now.”
By Bob Townsend, AJC Drink blog